Chef Robert Rainford On How to Grill To Thrill
Food Styling, Anna Hampton/ Prop Styling Lindsey Lower

Out of the frying pan and into, or rather right over, the fire is an exciting way to cook and entertain. And no one seems to have more fun at it than Robert Rainford, host of the Discovery Home Channel’s License to Grill. “I adore being out in the open air. And cooking with flames, smoke and embers imparts flavor that cannot be had indoors,” Rainford says.

“But most of all, I love what happens when people eat great food.” With ingredients like rum, pineapple and mangoes, he turns a customary backyard barbecue into a stylish, rousing evening in the West Indies. License to Grill tips, tricks and recipes will get you and your guests fired up!


Low and slow is the grilling method for tender, moist, succulent ribs. Any meat with a lot of connective tissue, such as pork or beef ribs and roasts, requires slow cooking at a low temperature for long periods of time.

• Start by removing the tough back membrane from the ribs.

• Dry-rub or marinate the meat for up to 24 hours with your favorite spices or your choice of beer, wine or spirits.

• Lightly oil the grate to prevent sticking. Heat grill to high.

• Sear ribs over direct heat, just until golden brown.

• Turn one side of your grill off, or if using charcoal, move coals to one side. Lower the temperature to 220°F (use grill thermometer to check). Close lid to create an oven.

• Cook pork ribs about 2½ to 3 hours. Beef ribs take 3 to 4 hours to cook. Meat will begin to pull away from the bones when cooked through.


“Smoking is the coup de grâce when it comes to barbecuing. This is what to aim for when you want to take your grilling game to the next level,” says Rainford. He uses a mix of such wood chips as apple, cherry, oak or hickory. They’re readily available at hardware stores and barbecue specialty stores. Mix two parts chips soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and 1 part dry wood chips. When cooking with charcoal, sprinkle the chips right on the coals. For a gas grill: On a large piece of aluminum foil, place the wet and dry wood chips. Fold and seal the foil into a packet. Pierce it with a fork, making small holes in the top and bottom for smoke to escape. Place the packet under the grilling racks. Bring your barbecue up to a high heat, and watch for the smoke.


Servings: 8


½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon chili powder

3 racks pork baby back ribs

Pineapple-rum glaze:

2 cups pineapple juice

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

¾ cup Jamaican rum

Rib BBQ sauce:

2 cups pineapple juice

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon minced ginger

½ cup ketchup

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

To make rub: In bowl, combine rub ingredients; mix well. Rub mixture all over ribs; place in large sealable food-storage bag. Marinate in refrigerator 4 hours.

To make glaze: In saucepan, combine glaze ingredients. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer to thicken sauce and reduce by half its volume.

“Smoking is the coup de grâce when it comes to barbecuing. This is what to aim for when you want to take your grilling game to the next level.”

Loading the player...

To make BBQ sauce: In saucepan, combine juice, hot pepper sauce and ginger. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium. Add remaining ingredients; continue cooking until slightly thick.

Remove ribs from storage bag; bring to room temperature. Prepare grill for indirect grilling; heat to high on one side. If using charcoal, wait until coals have turned to white ash. (See section on smoking.) Place ribs over high heat and sear. Reduce heat to 200°F/100°C; close lid. Cook about 2 hours, turning ribs after 1 hour. Baste with glaze for remaining 45 minutes. Remove ribs from grill; let rest 15 minutes before cutting. Serve with BBQ sauce.

Per serving: 760 calories, 50 grams fat, 194 milligrams cholesterol, 1,200 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrate, 39 grams protein.


Servings: 12

4 medium-size yams or sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise ¾ inch thick

1 tablespoon garlic salt

Juice of 2 lemons (about ¼ cup)

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Orange-Pecan Butter:

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon honey

Juice and zest of 2 oranges

½ cup roasted pecans, chopped

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In large pot of boiling water, cook potatoes about 2 minutes; drain. Refresh with cold water. In small bowl, mix garlic salt, lemon juice, oil and black pepper. Place drained potatoes in sealable food-storage bag; add seasoning mix. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes; bring to room temperature. Meanwhile, to prepare Orange-Pecan Butter, combine ingredients in small saucepan; cook over low heat about 1 minute. Preheat grill to 450°F. Arrange potatoes on grill; cook until browned and tender. Drizzle with Orange-Pecan Butter.

Per serving: 235 calories, 19 grams fat, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 383 milligrams sodium, 16 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein.


Servings: 14

1 medium-size jicama, peeled, julienned

1 ripe mango, peeled, julienned

12-ounce can Mandarin or clementine orange segments

1 red onion, sliced thin

2 cups mesclin lettuce mix

1 bunch mint, chopped

1 bunch basil, chopped

1 small head radicchio, washed, dried, torn

1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, torn

½ English cucumber, chopped

1 cup unsalted peanuts


½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons soy sauce

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon chili sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

In large bowl, combine salad ingredients. In small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until thickened and blended. When ready to serve, drizzle dressing over salad. Gently toss to mix and coat.

Per serving: 237 calories, 16 grams fat, 0 cholesterol, 306 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams protein. It’s a good idea to offer a choice of at least two different grilled meats when hosting a barbecue, and you can’t go wrong making chicken one of them. Consider adding fish and lots of vegetables.

This feature originally appeared in the August 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.